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Abstract

Socioeconomic status (SES) is strongly associated with cognitive ability and achievement during childhood and beyond. Little is known about the developmental relationships between SES and specific brain systems or their associated cognitive functions. In this study we assessed neurocognitive functioning of kindergarteners from different socioeconomic backgrounds, using tasks drawn from the cognitive neuroscience literature in order to determine how childhood SES predicts the normal variance in performance across different neurocognitive systems. Five neurocognitive systems were examined: the occipitotemporal/visual cognition system, the parietal/spatial cognition system, the medial temporal/memory system, the left perisylvian/language system, and the prefrontal/executive system. SES was disproportionately associated with the last two, with low SES children performing worse than middle SES children on most measures of these systems. Relations among language, executive function, SES and specific aspects of early childhood experience were explored, revealing intercorrelations and a seemingly predominant role of individual differences in language ability involved in SES associations with executive function.